While mankind was created to be in communion with God and others, it is our interactions with friends we find to be the most gratifying of relationships. Often, it is our friends who really know us, who we share the most intimate of details with, and who know our greatest successes and flaws. True friendship goes beyond sharing a common history and common interest. We see through these verses in Proverbs the importance of the company we keep and of their ability to influence us. We see descriptions of who a true friend is, and how we can be a true friend to others. True friends run to help in times of distress. They are present through the joyous times and the lonely times. They share one another's burdens. They spur each other on in righteousness. They edify through encouragement and are not afraid to rebuke one another when needed. A true friend is involved in the life of another such that their presence and speech are a source of healing.
The Apostle James teaches us that genuine faith in Christ leads to personal transformation and action. After we come to faith in Christ, we grow in our love and concern for others, particularly, those who are weak, vulnerable and oppressed. Of specific concern to God is the well being and care of orphans and widows. Hence, the Lord calls the church, his people, to rise up and care for them.
This morning is our annual Missions Sunday. It is a time in which we focus our attention on the mission of the church, to glorify God through making disciples of all nations. This mission comes directly from Jesus. In his earthly ministry, Jesus performed many miracles, healing every disease and illness. Gracious and merciful as that was, that was not his primary ministry. His primary ministry was the proclamation of the gospel of the Kingdom of God and urging sinners to repent and turn to him in faith. Likewise, his disciples are commissioned with the same mission, to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and needy world. And to do that, we must be filled with a sincere Christ-like compassion for the lost. Then we must pray; pray for God to do what only He can do in sending laborers into his harvest to proclaim the gospel and draw sinners to himself by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Proverbs has much to teach us regarding how to be wise in the way use our words. Oftentimes however, the areas where we struggle to keep our speech pure have far more to do with our hearts than our mouths.
Proverbs shows us the foolishness of earthly possessions and money. What God truly values are matters of character: righteousness, wisdom, instruction, integrity. The cravings of material wealth are never quenched, they never satisfy, they do not profit our soul. Instead, we are called to set our eyes on godliness and to be content with little. In so doing we will be equipped to give generously and steward honorably which is a hedge against the temptation and snare of worldly riches.
How do you build a happy home? We all desire to live in and sustain a happy home life. But how do you that? Fortunately, Proverbs holds out wisdom for the path to a happy home. God has specific order and intentions for the family and the roles therein. Wisdom is to embrace God’s ordering of the family. Harmony at home is the fruit of embracing Christ and his authoritative Word on how to govern your marriage, inform your parenting, build your family and shape your home.
The Bible describes the voice of temptation like bitter honey. The temptation to sin promises to be sweet but in the end is like bitter wormwood, poisoning the soul. In Proverbs 5, Solomon goes to great lengths to warn his son about the dangers of sexual sin. Nothing is able to bring people to ruin quite like illicit sexual passion. Therefore, whether you are single or married, the Bible equips us with strategies for resisting sexual sin.
In Proverbs chapter 4, Solomon wisely exhorts us to be vigilant to keep our hearts on the path of wisdom. He does so because he knows we live out of our heart; the heart is the key to our life, everything we do flows from it. And there are powerful messages competing for our heart's attention and affection, seeking to shape our beliefs and change us. Therefore, we must keep, indeed, guard our hearts with alertness and thoughtfulness.
In Proverbs 3 we learn that living wisely means living with complete trust in the Lord. This is challenging for a variety of reasons, namely our sinful tendencies, and our perpetual inclination to trust in our understanding and follow our heart rather than lean on the Lord and trust him fully. The most important decisions we make in our lives revolve around whom we trust. And Proverbs 3 leads us away from trusting our fickle hearts and instead, leaning in and fully trusting our faithful, wise God.
In the introduction to Proverbs, Solomon seeks to exhort his son to pursue the path of wisdom that leads to eternal life and avoid the path of folly which leads to heartache and destruction. Solomon teaches us that there are two paths in life and two voices competing for our attention and allegiance. Solomon personifies these voices as Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly. Each voice calls out to us, each voice makes promises. But only one is telling the truth. Solomon teaches us that the difference between living the good life and living foolishly is determined by whose voice you heed.